9 Ways to Keep Yourself and Your Pets Safe from Bad Neighbors
This summer has been crazy. Not only did Quincy come near death three times, but I’ve had a situation going on since May that’s led to the question ‘how do you keep yourself and your pets safe from bad neighbors?’ Nothing about this story makes much sense, but the bottom line is, one of my neighbors is scary and aggressive, and I have no idea what he’s capable of. He’s screamed and harassed us to the point of getting the police involved a couple times, pounded on the outside of our house and told us we can’t live here, and a bunch of other creepy stuff. We’re currently in the process of getting a restraining order, but I’m still worried about what he might do next. I’ve learned a few things that have made me feel more safe, and might help you as well if you ever need to protect yourself from bad neighbors.
1. Document Everything
Write down times and dates, along with a description of what happened. You’ll need this later if you need a restraining order. While it may not be bad yet, by the time it does get bad, you may have forgotten important details, or at least what day they took place on. The more you remember, the stronger your case is. You will also need information such as licence plate number, make and model of their vehicle, first and last name, and physical description if you get a restraining order. These will be important if law enforcement serves the papers to your harasser. If you have a friend or neighbor do it, you can get by with less information.
2. Speak Up
Sometimes a situation can be resolved just by talking. If you can have a conversation with your neighbor, that’s great. If another neighbor is willing to mediate, that could be helpful as well. Our good neighbor has spoken to the bad neighbor on several occasions, warning him to leave us alone. When that failed, she happily served him the restraining order papers, saving us the $100 serving fee if law enforcement had done it for us. (She even blared Bob Dylan’s “You Gotta Serve Somebody” on the radio while doing it!) If communications fail, sometimes just yelling back will help! Be careful of course, but when the neighbor harassed my roommate, all he had to do is yell back once and it stopped completely. Unfortunately, the same strategy didn’t work for me at all! (It did make me feel a little better though.)
3. Keep Them Inside
Don’t let your animals outside unattended during this situation. Even a fenced yard may not be enough protection. I’ve had dogs bit through fences, things thrown over fences, and gates left open. There are many scenarios where your pet could be in harms way if they are out unattended. I strongly believe that cats should be indoors only, due to their impact on wildlife and their own safety risks. If your cat is allowed outdoors unattended, starting to transition them to an indoor pet before an issue arises could save their life. It could even prevent a situation in the first place, if a wandering cat is what sets off the neighbor. Consider building a catio for your cat instead, and monitor them during their catio time if you’re dealing with harassment from a neighbor.
4. Watch the Ground
When you take your dogs out, keep an eye out for possible hazards on the ground. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but you’re better safe than sorry. If you’re dealing with a really heinous individual, they could try to poison or harm your dog with items hidden inside treats or meat. While I thankfully have not dealt with this one personally, stories like this come up on the news from time to time. I’m always vigilant about items on the ground, though, since Quincy’s health depends on him staying on a strict diet, and he fancies himself a vacuum.
5. Buddy System
In my particular situation, the neighbor only harasses me when I’m alone. He’s waited at his windows for my nice neighbor and my roommate to leave, and then immediately come outside to curse and scream at me. Until the situation is resolved, I prefer to go out with my roommate with me, especially after dark. If you have someone living with you, recruit them to be your dog walking buddy. If you live alone, try to make friends with a more pleasant neighbor who would enjoy daily walks, or maybe even see if a friend will come stay for a while.
6. Get the Law Involved
Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in a situation as bad as mine, but if you do, definitely call the police! There may be limitations on what they can do, but even just showing up can put a stop to the harassment, if only temporarily. When I called the police, they said there wasn’t much they could do, but as soon as they pulled into the driveway, the neighbor disappeared and didn’t bother me for nearly two months. Calling the police also starts building a history. If you need to take it a step further and file a restraining order, having an official record of past incidents will help your case.
If you do have to file a restraining order, it will likely ban the other party from speaking to you, sending someone else to speak to you, monitoring you, or coming on your property or within a certain distance. Since pets are considered property by the law, these rules will protect your pets as well. If the person breaks these rules, with the restraining order in place the police will have the authority to arrest them. They can even forcefully enter the person’s house to do so – something they cannot do without the restraining order. While a restraining order may seem overkill to some people, it really puts the power back in your hands when dealing with harassment.
7. If You Arm Yourself
Some people have recommended that I get a gun or carry a weapon of some sort, just in case this escalates to violence. While I’m not opposed to the idea, it’s a decision you should make carefully. Have you shot a gun before? Do you know gun safety? If you choose another weapon, are you experienced with that device? These items can be turned against their owner if you don’t have the proper training. Are you sure you can use it if the time comes? If you hesitate, it could be used against you instead.
Be sure you know the laws or regulations that need to be followed to possess or use the weapon of your choice? Obviously guns have a bunch of laws that you need to comply with to own or fire them, but so do tasers and pepper spray. You may be required to buy permits to own or carry those weapons as well. There are also laws about how and where you can carry them. A local gun shop may be able to educate you about these issues. You can also ask at a police station, and they will also be able to point you to the correct forms you’ll need to comply with the laws.
If you can’t feel safe in your own home, find other accommodations until things improve. I had to make adjustments to my living situation until I feel safer. It’s been less than a week so far, and I want to see what happens when the neighbor gets drunk over the weekend, which is usually when he causes problems. If you have to leave, find a friend or relative to stay with, or even a hotel. Although most women’s shelters won’t take pets, some of them may be able to accommodate you and your animals. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Some stores, such as Walmart, will even allow you to camp in their parking lot, but I’d use that as a last resort.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be dealing with a lot of stress during this time, and just being away from the threat may give you a chance to regroup and think clearly. Anxiety could cause you to lash out unexpectedly or make rash choices, so be careful about your mental health as well as your physical well-being.
9. Do What You Need to Do
Some friends thought a restraining order was over-reacting. Some friends thought I should have called the police more often than I did. Some thought I shouldn’t arm myself. Some thought I should. The bottom line is, its your choice on how you proceed, and your responsibility to do what you feel necessary to keep yourself and your family safe. If you feel like pepper spray and a restraining order is what it takes, go for it. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your choices. You don’t want to look back and regret following someone’s advice against your own better judgment.
I’m absolutely not condoning breaking the law, or harassing the neighbor back. Throughout my entire situation, I’ve stayed off his property, not touched any of his belongings, and not instigated anything. I feel that this keeps me the safest and keeps the law on my side. Some of the suggestions my friends have made to get back at him have sounded like a lot of fun, and very satisfying, but I’m sticking with legal boundaries to handle this situation.
Be sure your choices are thought out and based on what makes you feel safe and what follows the law. In the end, you are the one who has to live with the repercussions of your choices, both good and bad.
How Do You Keep Yourself and Your Pets Safe from Bad Neighbors?
Have you ever had to deal with bad neighbors? Any kind of harassment? What measures did you take to keep yourself and your dogs or cats safe during the ordeal? We’d love to hear your story! Share with us in the comments below, then share this post on Facebook or Twitter to help others!